Woodworking is like lego, but for grown-ups. You cut and join wood pieces together. And since you can cut those with different tools, what’s actually the purpose of a big machine such as the table saw?
A table saw is used to cut wood. It can help you create wood joinery pieces, accurate cut-offs, perfect dimensioned boards, furniture pieces, even boats or about any woodworking related project that comes to your mind. It’s a really versatile machine, and I use it because of its precision, speed, and simplicity. And I’m sure every craftsman would agree with me.
Let me explain why you, a beginner woodworker, need a table saw in your workshop.
Reasons To Use A Table Saw
Now, you may say that an experienced woodworker will cut a board with any saw as easy as he would do it with a table saw. That’s possible (even though I doubt it!), but can he do it as fast as it too?
And we’re not experts here, right? At least I’m not one. But I like to learn new things and woodworking is now my “obsession”.
So, as a beginner, here’s why I’m using my table saw:
I use my table saw for its accuracy. There’s no other wood cutting machine that is more precise than a table saw.
You know, every millimeter counts when it comes to joining pieces of furniture. And when it comes to dimensions, you can’t go wrong with a table saw if you know how to set it up and use it properly.
(Don’t worry, I’ll share with you a step by step guide with everything you need to know and do when you first start the table saw.)
So I’m currently working on a cabinet, which, for me, is a pretty advanced project (I’m also a beginner at woodworking). Now, I’ve done similar DIY projects in the past, but at that time I didn’t have a table saw. And after every cut, I needed to measure and check the boards again to make sure the dimensions are right and they fit together.
You don’t have to do this when cutting with a table saw. Once you set it up, you can cut multiple boards at the same dimensions in a blink of an eye.
So as you can see, it’s not just the precision that recommends a tool like this. Speed is also important when it comes to woodworking.
OK, speed might not be too important for a beginner. But once you learn a few things and start crafting wood pieces for someone else (maybe your future clients), you know you need to work fast.
Imagine building a wooden fence. You need to cut tens, if not hundreds of pieces of wood at the exact same length. So what would you normally do is you’ll measure each and every board before starting to cut them.
But with a table saw you use your ruler a single time when you set it up. After that, you just slide the wood pieces one after the other over the blade and that’s it.
Cutting with a table saw is an almost instant operation. I literally spend more time measuring and preparing my tools than cutting.
So yeah, a table saw is very accurate and super fast. But it’s also simple to use after you learn how to do the setup.
Table saws are incredibly easy to use tools; you just plug them in, press the start button and slide your wood pieces over the protruding blade. As simple as that.
Now, using a table saw is simple, easy and straight-forward. But what might seem a little bit more complicated at first is the setup.
Since table saws are used for such a wide range of operations, they come with a lot of accessories (some of them you can build on your own) for different types of cuts. There are:
- crosscut sleds;
- miter gauges;
- rip fences;
- all kind of jigs;
- push sticks, etc.
So yeah, it might seem a little bit overwhelming. But once you know the role of every accessory, how and when to use it, every cut is a simple kids’ play.
I don’t use a table saw because it’s safer than any other cutting tools out there. But I feel like I should mention this here too.
Okay, a table saw isn’t super safe if you don’t make it so. I mean wearing safety glasses, earplugs and gloves, using the blade guard and splitter to avoid kickback injuries, and properly follow the instruction to use the machine.
Accidents happen; I know someone who cut his finger (only the fingernail) after 25 years of daily woodworking. All it takes is a moment of distraction. But if you’re always careful and follow the safety rules, it won’t happen to you.
I’ll cover all the table saw safety steps in a separate article, since there’s a lot to talk about it, and you’re here to find an answer to the below question.
What Is A Table Saw Used For?
There will always be something to cut, repair, or just modify around the house, such as a wooden fence, furniture, wooden terrace, window sash, etc. So having a table saw around you might be a good idea.
There is an infinite number of table saw uses, so here is what can you do with a table saw:
1. Cut Wooden Boards
If it’s wood, you can definitely cut it on a table saw. There are several cut types, but most often you’ll do rip cuts (lengthwise) and cross cuts (widthwise). Sometimes you’ll also encounter angled cuts.
Now for every type of cut, you’ll want to use a different accessory. For example, to rip cut a board you need to use the rip fence, to cross cut it you need a miter gauge, and to angle cut, you might need a jig.
Well, no matter what kind of cut you need to make, you can definitely do it with a table saw.
2. Straighten Edges
Another awesome way to use your table saw would be to straighten warped lumber. This is especially helpful when you want to build a piece of furniture from old, crooked wood boards.
Now, you can do this with a jointer, which is another big machine for strengthening wood boards. But if you don’t have one, you can use your table saw to do this. I’ll write another article on how to make a jig that will transform your table saw into a jointer.
You may wonder why you need your wood nice and straight? Well, when you build something from multiple smaller pieces you need to join them together as easy as possible. And a piece of wood with straight edges is way much easier to fit into the ensemble than a warped one.
So whether you’re trying to build furniture, a boat, or any other wooden ensemble, you need to straighten the edges of your boards prior to cutting them to the dimensions you need.
3. Make Lumber From Logs
I’ve never done this before, but from the videos I’ve watched on YouTube, it seems like it’s a more complex job.
You’ll have to build a jig that will hold still the logs while cutting them with the table saw. Of course, to perform such cuts, the logs shouldn’t be thicker than the blade’s diameter.
I’m not gonna insist on this subject, but you can really build a nice piece of furniture from the old tree in your backyard with just a table saw.
4. Cut Other Materials
Don’t limit your table saw to cut wood only. You can also cut:
- Paper (which is also made from wood);
- Acrylic sheets (Plexiglas);
- Plastic (PVC, Polypropylene);
- And even aluminum or copper.
For some of these materials (the hard ones), you’ll need to change the saw blade, while for others you must pay special attention to not break them. But in either case, you’re gonna use the same cutting techniques as in wood cutting.
Now I know you got your table saw to work with lumber, but it’s good to know you can shape other materials too if you need to.
5. Join Wooden Pieces With Dado Cuts
This is also a cut you can make with your table saw, but it’s a little bit special. Dado (also known as housing or trench) is a narrow cut made in the surface of a wooden board (it doesn’t protrude the board). It is used in joinery to, as you guessed, join pieces of wood together, without any added material (no nails, no glue).
You’ll find dado joints used often in woodworking projects like bookcases and cabinets, where the shelves fit into the sides of the bookcase or cabinet and don’t need to move. But you’ll also find dado joints used as drawer dividers or partitions.
To make a dado cut you’ll need to replace your saw blade with a special “sandwich” of blades from the dado set (which, sometimes, comes with your table saw). This set is made from two outer blades and multiple chipper blades and shims that you can put in between the outer blades.
I’ll make a different article dedicated to dado cuts and how to make them.
Table Saws Are Very Useful!
As you can see, you can use your table saw for almost anything when it comes to woodworking. It’s incredible! You can build your own furniture from logs with a single machine: TABLE SAW.
Don’t get me wrong, there are other awesome tools you can use (and you should) for your woodworking projects. But a table saw is just my best acquisition for my workshop so far.
So yeah, I really recommend table saws for their accuracy, versatility, speed, multipurpose and simplicity of usage. And if you have one, all you need is more wood and fresh ideas.